2.6 Environmental Effects of Trade

7 min readjanuary 3, 2023


Katie Moore

Riya Patel

Riya Patel

AP World History: Modern 🌍

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Environmental Consequences of Connectivity

Connectivity refers to the ability to communicate and exchange ideas, goods, and other forms of cultural expression. The environmental consequences of connectivity are the changes that occur in the environment as a result of the ability to connect with other societies. These consequences can be both positive and negative, and they can affect various aspects of the environment, including the climate, natural resources, and biodiversity.
One positive consequence of connectivity is the exchange of knowledge and technology, which can lead to the development of more environmentally-friendly practices and technologies. For example, the exchange of information and ideas about renewable energy and conservation practices can help to reduce the negative impacts of human activity on the environment.
However, connectivity can also have negative consequences, such as the overconsumption of natural resources and the spread of pollution and other environmental impacts. For example, the globalization of consumer culture has led to an increase in the production and transportation of goods, which can contribute to greenhouse gas emissions and other forms of environmental degradation.
Overall, the environmental consequences of connectivity are complex and multifaceted, and they depend on the specific context and the nature of the exchange.
It’s important to define the different environmental impacts that trade networks had on various societies. Along with goods and beliefs, diseases and crops spread along these routes too-- some of which would alter the way the world worked forever.

The Bubonic Plague (Black Death)

Okay, this is the big one. The bubonic plague is a bacterial disease that is caused by the bacterium Yersinia pestis. It is transmitted to humans through the bite of infected fleas, which are carried by rodents, such as rats. The bubonic plague is characterized by the sudden onset of fever, chills, weakness, and swollen lymph nodes, which are called "buboes." If left untreated, the disease can progress to a more severe form, called pneumonic plague, which affects the lungs and can be transmitted from person to person through respiratory droplets.
The bubonic plague has a long history and has caused several major outbreaks, including the so-called "Black Death," which is considered one of the worst pandemics in human history. The Black Death, which occurred in the 14th century, is estimated to have killed between 75 and 200 million people, or up to 60% of the European population. The bubonic plague has since been largely controlled through the use of antibiotics and public health measures, but it still occurs in some parts of the world, particularly in Africa.
The Plague started in China around the 1300's, then swept into Europe, via trade routes, causing the decimation of up to half their population. None of that would have been possible without trade routes. It’s also important to note that the Mongols used biological warfare as a means to spread the plague to Europe-- to conquer neighboring territories, Mongols would often load infected people into catapults and launch them over walls. The resulting spread of disease would kill the people inside, weakening the city and allowing the Mongols to take over far more efficiently. Brutal? Absolutely. But it was effective.

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Crops: Bananas, Champa Rice, & Citrus

Crops have played an important role in trade throughout history, as they have been an important source of food, medicine, and other goods. Many crops, such as wheat, rice, and corn, are grown in large quantities and are traded internationally. Other crops, such as coffee, cocoa, and tobacco, are grown in specific regions of the world and are traded globally.
The trade of crops has had a significant impact on the global economy and has helped to shape the cultural, political, and social development of various regions of the world. For example, the trade of spices, such as pepper and cinnamon, was an important factor in the development of trade routes and empires in the ancient world. The trade of crops has also contributed to the spread of agriculture and the development of new technologies and techniques for growing crops.
Overall, many crops diffused throughout these roads, but the College Board only requires you to know three: bananas (Africa), new rice varieties (champa rice) (East Asia), and citrus (Mediterranean). Let’s go through them!
Bananas originated in Pacific region and Southeast Asia, and from there, Arab traders utilized the Indian Ocean trade network to bring them everywhere, especially in Africa, where cultivating them became lucrative.
Bananas are a type of fruit that is grown in tropical regions around the world. They are a staple food in many parts of the world and are a good source of nutrients, including potassium, dietary fiber, and vitamin C. Bananas are grown on large plants that are called "banana trees," but they are not actually trees – they are herbaceous plants that belong to the same family as lilies and orchids. Bananas are grown in a wide range of climates, but they are particularly well-suited to the tropical and subtropical regions of the world.
New rice varieties, specifically champa rice, spread first from Southeast Asia to China, since Vietnam was under Chinese control through the tribute system. Vietnam gave China champa rice, which was drought-resistant and early-ripening. It was the perfect rice to grow, since it produced more of the crop, in a much faster amount of time. China quickly adopted it, and champa rice became a staple of the Chinese diet.
Champa rice is a type of rice that is grown in the Champa region of Vietnam. It is a medium-grain rice that is known for its fragrance and flavor, and it is used in a wide range of dishes, including rice porridge and rice cakes. Champa rice is grown in the Mekong Delta region of Vietnam, which has a warm, humid climate that is well-suited to rice cultivation.
Citrus originated in Southeast Asia, similar to bananas, and through the Indian Ocean and Silk Road trade networks to the Mediterranean.
Citrus is a type of fruit that is grown in warm, tropical and subtropical regions around the world. Citrus fruits, such as oranges, lemons, and limes, are a good source of vitamin C and are used in a wide range of dishes and beverages. Citrus trees are grown in a wide range of climates, but they require a warm, sunny climate and well-drained soil to thrive.

Negative Impacts on The Environment

  1. Overgrazing:
    grazing of natural pastures at stocking intensities above the carrying capacity
    of livestock
  2. Deforestation:
    loss of forest trees due to the overuse of farm land
  3. Soil Erosion:
    wearing away of the soil from the surface due to overuse of farm lan

Key Questions

Where did Champa rice originate? India (Hindu influence was huge in Vietnam)
What was the impact of Champa rice on population growth? Healthy population, multiple crops per year were yielded, needs of population were slowly met
What was the impact of bananas on migration? Bantu people who had farming and matallurgy skills to migrate to areas where yams didn't easily grow
What was the impact of planting bananas?
Bananas are a widely cultivated and important food crop in many parts of the world. They are grown for their nutritious fruit, which is high in potassium and other essential nutrients, and are a staple food in many tropical countries.
The cultivation of bananas has had a number of impacts on local and global economies, communities, and ecosystems. Some of the most significant impacts include:
  • Economic: Bananas are an important cash crop for many smallholder farmers, particularly in tropical countries where they are grown on a large scale for export to other parts of the world. The banana trade has also supported the development of many local and regional economies, particularly in areas where it is a major source of income.
  • Social: The cultivation of bananas has provided employment and livelihoods for millions of people around the world, including smallholder farmers, plantation workers, and others involved in the production and trade of the crop.
  • Environmental: Like any agricultural activity, the cultivation of bananas can have both positive and negative impacts on the environment. On the one hand, bananas can provide food and income for local communities and can be grown using sustainable practices that protect natural resources. On the other hand, the use of pesticides and fertilizers can have negative impacts on soil health and water quality, and large-scale monoculture production of bananas can lead to deforestation and habitat destruction.
Which crops were spread by Muslim merchants?
Muslim merchants played a significant role in the spread of a number of crops around the world. Some examples include:
  • Citrus fruits: Oranges, lemons, and other citrus fruits were introduced to many parts of the world, including Europe and the Americas, through trade by Muslim merchants.
  • Sugar: Sugar was originally grown in India and the Middle East, and Muslim merchants played a role in its spread to other parts of the world.
  • Spices: Many spices, such as black pepper, cinnamon, and nutmeg, originated in Asia and were widely traded by Muslim merchants throughout the world.
  • Rice: Rice is an important staple food in many parts of the world, and it is thought that Muslim traders played a role in its spread to parts of Europe and Africa.
  • Cotton: Cotton was grown and traded by Muslim merchants in many parts of the world, including India, the Middle East, and Africa.
How was the environment degraded? Resource depletion, deforestation, erosion of soil, overgrazing
Which group was greatly impacted by the environment in Mesoamerica? The Mayan Empire fell due to drought conditions.
How did the Black Death impact the European population? 1/3 of the population was killed in the span of a few years.

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